Traumatic Occlusion

A change in the position of the teeth when the jaws are closed because of accident or injury.

What is


A young woman grinding her teeth.

“Occlusal trauma” is the damage to the gums and structures that hold your teeth in place because the teeth aren’t fitting together right when you bite or chew.

In dentistry your occlusion basically refers to how your teeth come together. It’s more than just your “bite” as you can bite in different ways depending on whether you are chewing or attempting to take a bite out of something.

You also bring your teeth together when you swallow and may bring them together in quite different ways when you sleep and are not consciously guiding them one way or another.

The term “occlusion” refers to how your teeth come together in all these different ways.

Imagine you have a box of crayons. When you close the box, all the crayons fit perfectly side by side. But let’s say one crayon is taller or shorter than the others.

When you try to close the box, it might not close properly, or it could push and poke the other crayons.

Now, think of your teeth like those crayons in the box.

Usually, when you bite down, all your teeth should comfortably touch each other. But sometimes, maybe because of an accident or how your teeth grow, one or more teeth might hit harder than the others or incorrectly.

This is like that taller or shorter crayon in the box. When this happens in your mouth, we call it “traumatic dental occlusion.”

Just like the crayons getting pushed or poked, when your teeth don’t fit together just right, it can hurt your teeth and the gums around them. Let us know if you feel any discomfort so we can help ensure your teeth fit together like a perfect box of crayons again.

If your teeth don’t align properly while biting or chewing, the support system of your teeth can be damaged. If left uncorrected, long-term damage to your gums and teeth’s support structures could become permanent. We want to help you align your teeth for proper function and overall health.


  1. Malocclusion, occlusal disease, or a bad bite: This is when your top and bottom teeth, or even the whole jaw, don’t line up properly. Think of it like trying to close a misaligned zipper – the two sides don’t match up well. This misalignment can hurt or even break the teeth.

  2. Trauma of occlusion: This is a fancy term that’s used a lot but not always clear to everyone. It’s talking about damage to a tooth or the surrounding tissue because the teeth aren’t coming together properly or because of the force when they do.

  3. Signs and symptoms of this problem: If someone has this tooth misalignment issue, they might notice:

    • Their teeth feeling loose.
    • Pain in the jaw joint (that’s the “temporomandibular joint” part).
    • Pain when chewing food.
    • Gum disease (that’s the “periodontal disease” part).

Acute Trauma

Imagine your teeth are like two sets of gears. When they fit well together, everything runs smoothly. “Occlusion” is the fancy term for how your top and bottom teeth come together when you bite or chew.

Now, let’s say you bite down on something really hard, like a popcorn kernel, or maybe there’s a new filling, crown, or dental appliance that doesn’t quite fit right. That can be like throwing a wrench into those gears. This sudden or unexpected force or interruption is called an “acute trauma from occlusion.” It means a sudden injury caused by the way the teeth come together.

In other words, if you bite down suddenly on something hard or if there’s something new in your mouth that changes how your teeth meet, it can cause sudden damage or discomfort.

Chronic Trauma

Chronic trauma from occlusion is more common than acute trauma and develops from gradual changes in how your teeth fit together produced by tooth wear, teeth drifting, or teeth that are loose in the socket.

When people’s teeth rub together a lot over time or move out of place, it can slowly hurt the teeth, surrounding tissue, and gums, which can happen more often than sudden tooth injuries. Some people also grind their teeth or clench them together, especially during sleep, which can make this worse.

These chronic injuries can harm the tooth, the parts holding it, and even the joint that helps us chew. If we don’t notice, it can cause more problems with how we chew and use our mouths.

The Masticatory System

Our chewing system (masticatory system) is made up of parts from our head and face, like our top and bottom jaws, teeth, joints, and the muscles that help our bottom jaw move. We need to move our bottom jaw for important things like chewing.

When we chew, we squash food and mix it with spit to make it easy to swallow. Masticating describes how we move our jaw up and down, making spit, and mixing food with our tongue.

Occlusal Instability

When your bite isn’t aligned properly, it can cause a lot of issues. This misalignment can make your jaw shift to find a position where most of your teeth fit together. This is your body’s way of preventing injury from chewing using only one tooth. Over time, this can lead to jaw pain, headaches, sensitive teeth, receding gums, broken teeth, and even facial pain.

Symptoms of these bite issues include wobbly teeth, jaw pain, pain while chewing, and gum diseases.

Problems with your bite can be fixed. It’s crucial to see us for a complete check-up. We’ll study your bite and tell you the best way to fix it. When treated properly, occlusal instability issues can be resolved successfully.

Trusted help for your dental injuries!

If you have recently experienced dental trauma, we can help.

There are many different treatment options for different types of dental trauma, but all rely on quick action. When you receive any kind of dental injury, please contact us as soon as possible. Our team will provide you with instructions on what to do and arrange your treatment appointment.

We have been trusted by Sacramento County residents for over 25 years, and we’ll help you keep your teeth and gums healthy.


Experienced, compassionate, trusted doctors available to treat your traumatic dental injuries.

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We have three locations to serve you. Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, and Sacramento.

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